An Overview of PHP Framework

A Guide for Developers

Derek Thompson
Derek Thompson
Feb 4, 2011
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PHP is a widely used, powerful programming language that allows us to develop massive web applications. Other scripting languages that can be used aside from PHP, are ASP and Ruby. However, PHP is still being implemented the most, and it has no plans of backing down. PHP's popularity is attributed to how easy it is to learn and use, in contrast to other scripting languages.

Odds are, if you're reading this article, it's because you're either curious, interested in learning how to code in PHP, or you already have PHP in your arsenal. Whichever category you fall into, it doesn't matter, because within this post you'll find information that's both beneficial to the novice or more advanced PHP programmer. When discussing PHP Frameworks, we first have to thoroughly understand what a Framework is and what it can do for us.

Dissecting PHP Frameworks

A PHP Framework is a basic platform that allows us to develop web applications. In other words, it provides structure. By using a PHP Framework, you will end up saving loads of time, stopping the need to produce repetitive code, and you'll be able to build applications rapidly (RAD). Without a PHP Framework in place, it gets much more difficult to produce applications since you'll have to repeatedly code a lot of PHP. You'll also have to execute the connection between your database and whatever application you develop from scratch. Meanwhile, using a PHP Framework makes it easier for you to ensure this connection.

PHP operates on the Model View Controller (MVC) fundamentals. MVC is an architectural pattern featured in various popular programming languages which breaks apart your domain logic from your user interface. The domain logic is the function that handles information exchange between your database and your user interface. Therefore you're able to modify the domain logic and most importantly for designers, the user interface separately. This removes a lot of confusion and simplifies the entire developmental process. When we refer to MVC we generally perceive it as this: The M stands for the raw data, the V (view/user interface) represents what's actually being viewed, and C (controller) is in fact the domain logic as seen above. Once you're able to make sense of how MVC works, then PHP Frameworks become much more clearer and easier to use.

What to Look for When Choosing Your Frameworks?

When you're searching for a PHP Framework it can get a bit confusing with what you need your framework to do, and with what your framework already comes bundled with. Not every PHP Framework offers the same support for databases, communities, and an easy to follow user guide. That may be fine if you're looking for something extremely simple. However, if you find a PHP Framework that you're comfortable with, there should be a variety of options and advantages that come along with it.

Database Support

Database support is very important. For example, CodeIgniter supports MySQL, Oracle, and SQLite, while the Kohana framework doesn't support Oracle or SQLite. Depending on which database you prefer to use or choose for your project at hand, you will also need to consider whether your database server supports this database type.

Community Support

Your framework should have a strong community, not just in terms of size but also in activity and helpfulness. Even if it's a small community, as long as you're able to find support, then that's a plus point.

Documentation Support

You should also be weary of frameworks that don't have any documentation and absolutely no user guide. Make sure that your PHP Framework has good documentation that's kept up-to-date, and that the user guide its relatively easy to follow.

Model View Controller Architecture

Your framework should also use the Model View Controller architecture. If you haven't, take a quick look above at the previous section and see why. Most of the good frameworks you'll find also offer libraries, plug-ins, helpers, and extensions. It's good to find a framework that has at least two of these options.

Common Mistakes Made When Choosing a Framework

Anyone can make mistakes when choosing a framework, however, we must learn how to limit these mistakes so that we're able to develop web applications that run more smoothly. When choosing your framework, make sure that it isn't small enough for it to not offer any support. Small or inconclusive frameworks are usually created by individuals whose knowledge of PHP is limited. All the above mistakes could cause various issues to arise with your applications and ultimately prevent them from running properly.

Utilizing a PHP framework that's easy to use and understand is vital, unless you're a pretty advanced PHP programmer. You should always make sure that your database and web server is compatible with the framework you've chosen. This is a common mistake especially when we find a framework that we believe is perfect, and because of the excitement we may forget to check its technical requirements. PHP 4.3 is the minimum, and PHP 5 along with its later versions work fine as well. When it comes to MySQL versions 4.0, 4.1.x and 5.0 are all supported.

If the above requirements aren't in place, you will not be getting the best performance possible out of your chosen framework. Another common mistake is derailing from the recommended installation process of your PHP Framework. If you setup your framework in the wrong way, you'll have more problems at hand than you can probably fix. Keep your eye on the prize and take your sweet time setting up your framework. Follow your frameworks instructions thoroughly, and avoid distractions.

Convention Over Configuration

Some of the PHP frameworks offer convention over configuration. This helps the developers decrease the number of decisions needed to be made in order to gain simplicity, and at the same time not lose any of the flexibility. For convention, it comes with a set of rules that the developers need to follow in order to achieve the auto magic configuration.

Many modern PHP frameworks have adopted the convention over configuration approach to increase the speed for developing web applications. If you prefer convention over configuration for PHP framework, you can take a look at CakePHP, Kohana, Codeigniter or Akelos.

When Should We Use PHP Framework?

There's so many possibilities with PHP Frameworks that it really depends on the developer. If you're an advanced PHP programmer, you're more than likely to use a framework different from one who’s a beginner. PHP frameworks help eliminate repetitive coding and systemizes our building process. If and when you're working on an application that can benefit from this building process, then a PHP framework can definitely be used. PHP Frameworks are a powerful tool for an even more powerful programming language which helps you tweak your code in an organized and clean manner. If this is not something you're looking for, then working with a framework is more than likely not for you.

Everyone has different preferences and needs. What may seem as implementing a framework for speeding up the coding process to one developer, may seem like a waste of time to another. Most of the time this depends on what level of skill you possess; be it advanced or beginner, PHP frameworks have been put into place to save time and reduce the work load.

Below you will find 20 of the best PHP Frameworks to use in order to build your web applications. Snoop around, target a few, test, and see which one works best for you.

Reviewing the Frameworks

After conducting some research, and reading some relative feedback on which frameworks "give" the developer more in terms of usability, speed, and stability, we found 20 frameworks that we think fit the bill.

Being a PHP 5 Framework, Kohana offers flexibility and community support, an easy learning curve, is nicely structured and comes with multiple session drivers.

CodeIgniter is another PHP framework that brings versatility to the table and has a very small footprint. It's developed primarily for PHP coders with all sorts of experience who need a more simple solution to building web applications.

Akelos is very similar to a Ruby on Rails (RoR) framework only for PHP. It makes building web applications less complex and benefits a more simpler web server.

CakePHP is a rapid development framework for PHP that provides an extensible architecture for developing, maintaining, and deploying applications. Using commonly known design patterns like MVC and ORM within the convention over configuration paradigm, CakePHP reduces developmental costs and helps developers write less code.

Zend Framework
The Zend Framework is an object-oriented framework written strictly in PHP 5. It's simple, easy to work with, and has a loose architecture that lets you use various Zend components to enhance your applications functionality.

The Symfony PHP Framework holds a library of various classes written in PHP 5. Architecture, useful components and excellent tools are provided for creating complex web apps.

PHP Rapid Application Development Object-oriented; PRADO is a component-based and event-driven programming framework that helps you build applications based on PHP 5.

Solar Framework
Solar is a PHP 5 framework for web application development. It is fully name-spaced and uses enterprise application design patterns, with built-in support for localization and configuration at all levels.

Yii PHP Framework
Yii is a high-performance component-based PHP framework that's a good choice for developing large scale apps. It's loaded with great features and was written in OOP (which requires PHP 5 and above).

The Maintainable PHP Framework was formally built to host its creators personal projects. However, it was further released to open source. Like any framework, it's certainly not appropriate for every application. It's designed primarily for use with small-to-mid-sized applications.

Seagull is a mature OOP framework for building web, command line and GUI applications. Licensed under BSD, the project allows PHP developers to easily integrate and manage code resources, and build complex applications quickly.

FUSE is a Model View Controller framework for PHP. Taking influence from other web frameworks; such as Ruby on Rails (RoR) and CakePHP, then adding in custom, intuitive features of our own design, FUSE has developed into a robust, stable platform for MVC development using object oriented PHP.

AjaxAC is an open-source framework written in PHP, used to develop/create/generate AJAX applications. The fundamental idea behind AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript And XML) is to use the XMLHttpRequest object to change a web page state using background HTTP sub-requests without reloading the entire page. It is released under the terms of the Apache License v2.0.

PHOCOA (pronounced faux-ko) is PHP framework for developing web applications. PHOCOA's primary intent is to make web application development in PHP easier, faster, and of higher-quality.

Limb is an OpenSource (LGPL) PHP framework mostly aimed for rapid web application prototyping and development. The current actively developed branch of framework is Limb3 (there is also Limb2 but it's not maintained anymore).

Zoop has been in development since 2001 and in use for the last 6 years in a number of different production environments. While it predates the recent proliferation of PHP frameworks, it's based on solid MVC principles, including separation of display, logic, and data layers. It's designed to be efficient, modular, and extensible; striking a balance between lightweight and fully-featured.

BlueShoes is a comprehensive application framework and content management system. It is written in the widely used web-scripting language PHP. BlueShoes offers excellent support for the popular MySQL database as well as support for Oracle and MSSQL.

The Qcodo Development Framework is an open-source PHP framework that focuses on freeing developers from unnecessary, tedious, and mundane coding.

Recess is a RESTful PHP framework that provides a fun and enjoyable developmental experience for beginners and seasoned developers alike. Recess is fast, light-weight, and has a very small footprint ideal for LAMP development and drag-and-drop deployment to shared hosts.

As the name suggests, PHPDevShell provides a shell for your code to run in. It was developed from the ground up to be fast, secure and to provide immediate results for the developer using it. Simply plug your own PHP scripts into PHPDevShell’s secure menu system, or take the extra step and develop your own plug-ins for PHPDevShell.


Overall, no matter where you stand experience-wise, implementing a PHP framework allows us to reduce our workload by speeding up the coding and developmental process, along with eliminating the need to code repetitively. The above suggestions should be used as a great start for choosing and using the right framework that will help make sure your applications are running smoothly.

PHP Frameworks also allows our applications to run on a more secure platform and reduces security risks. Even though some developers may feel as though using a framework isn't the case for them, they should keep an open mind, as the time may come when a situation arises and they'll come to find that they can benefit from Rapid Application Development.

Which is your preferred PHP framework? Let us know by sharing it with us at the comment box below.

Keywords: MVC, php, frameworks, choose, logic database, rad, community support, common mistakes

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